Many earthmoving contractors are not inspecting or maintaining their machines or wear parts until something breaks, resulting in excessive machine downtime and unplanned maintenance.
While large earthmoving operations have set and defined maintenance schedules, smaller operations often have a “it’ll be right it will last one more job” attitude.
However, the cost of this approach could be the difference between losing an hour in changing out a part and losing an entire shift or more with unplanned maintenance.
While standard maintenance schedules in large operations are usually set at every 250 machine hours and planned work is based around how long things will last or are warranted, smaller earthmoving contractors may not always have the consistency of operations or conditions that this approach allows.
In this case, earthmoving contractors must intricately know their machines, the conditions they are operating in, and the parts they have installed.
Knowing how long your wear parts will last and which parts you might be able to push past their used by date can deliver significant increases in productivity, as will planning for proactive machine maintenance rather than being reactive when things break.
The importance of thorough daily pre-start inspections
Many operators are guilty of not performing a quick daily pre-start inspection, and for those who do, spending a few extra minutes to be more thorough during this process could save your hours.
While the pre-start is only an informal visual inspection, there are some key areas where operators can clearly see issues. If done regularly these issues will become even more apparent because operators become in-tune with their machines and potential problem areas.
Key things to inspect during a daily pre-start include:
- Inspect buckets and ground engaging tools (GET) for excessive wear, cracking, or missing parts
- Inspect the tracks and undercarriage for cracking, missing bolts, rollers leaking oil, and excessive wear across mating components
- Inspect bucket or truck trays for excess carry-back that may be hiding any problems and limiting the amount of pay dirt that can be carried
- Inspect for oil leaks throughout the machine
- Ensure lights, radio, and reversing alarm are functioning, and there is fuel and a clean windscreen
Keep your machine clean:
Ensuring your machine is regularly cleaned is critical for this pre-start to be effective. If damage is hidden under caked on dirt and mud, then it is unlikely to be seen in a visual inspection.
Many earthmoving contractors have their machines pressure washed overnight so that when the fitters and workshop come in at 6am they have a clean machine that is more likely to show any issues on visual inspections, and they can more easily perform any maintenance.
Key areas of an excavator to monitor:
While all the parts of an excavator should be maintained and inspected, there are key areas that are more likely than others to cause unplanned downtime and should receive particular attention during routine inspections.
Undercarriage – tracks, rollers, sprockets, idlers etc – are crucial and if one of these breaks, your machine will be out of service, and you will not be able to move it. You will need to transfer it onto a truck and to a place where you can service it, costing you lengthy periods of unplanned machine downtime and man hours.
Bucket: If any of your excavator bucket wear parts need replacing and you continue to operate without maintenance, you risk destroying that bucket. You might put a hole in the bucket or rip the lip out and you will be faced with a significantly higher bill than if you had performed proactive maintenance.
How can you extend the period between excavator maintenance?
Given the significant cost associated with planned and unplanned maintenance, it is in your best interest to ensure your machine parts and wear parts last as long as possible.
The best way to do that is by ensuring you have the best product for the job. From bucket teeth to grade blades, and grouser bars to air filters, a high-quality part tailored to your operating conditions can deliver significant increases in service life – often double that of cheaper options, or more.
So, when you are weighing up the cost of a more expensive wear part, ensure you consider the cost of early maintenance, future parts replacement, and unplanned downtime.
While the information in this guide is tailored to excavator maintenance, much of the information translates to other machines such as dozers, graders, scrapers and others.
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